Friday, November 7, 2008

A New Definition of "Police Riot"

Kudos to Colorado ACLU for uncovering the story behind a very strange event on Monday (Aug. 24) at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Though Monday was not supposed to be a big day for protesters, it ended up being the day with the most arrests, when police suddenly and inexplicably attacked a sunset march going from the Civic Center toward downtown. More than 100 were arrested, and of the 60 who decided to challenge their arrests, none have been convicted, due to lack of evidence or uncertain police testimony.

Turns out the police staged their own riot, when Denver undercover cops masquerading as anarchists pretended to resist arrest so that they could safely be removed from the area before the police did a sweep. A Jefferson County deputy, not understanding what was going on, pepper-sprayed the undercover cops along with the commander who was pretending to arrest them. From there, events deteriorated to the level of farce.

This isn't that surprising. When tear gas was widely used at the February 2003 protests in Colorado Springs, amateur videographers took pictures of police on side streets surrounding Academy Blvd., donning full riot gear before any civil disobedience had been done. When you can't find enough protest to justify your actions, make your own.

The core move of any bureaucracy is to self-perpetuate. If the budget can't be justified by its activity, a bureaucracy almost never calls for cutting its own budget. Instead, activity is generated. Everyone was chiding the Denver cops for the overwhelming presence on downtown streets during DNC. So they had to manufacture events to rationalize their budget.

When paranoids see all life and struggle as a stage-managed drama directed by shadowy puppet-masters, they are wrong 80 percent of the time. But every now and then, the curtain lifts on a second layer of game-behind-the-game, where we see that the paranoids have a point. What appears to be a political struggle is a scripted bread and circuses show presented for our edification and enjoyment. As the rallying cry goes, "This is what democracy looks like!"


jess said...

where there's smoke there's mirrors said one of my students. i am only surprised that i am so not surprised. i have always thought that one of albuquerque's greatest stumbling blocks to a vibrant peace movement was the presence of fifth columnists, or perhaps it is just the belief that there are provocateurs, or perhaps it is...pyncheon rules

Loring Wirbel said...

I wonder if Pynchon even believes in his Proverbs for Paranoids any more? The "Chums of Chance" in Against the Day seemed to always be pushing the randomness of events. But there was a front-page article from AP about paranoia Wed. or Thurs., saying it is the natural tendency of people to become more paranoid over time. Or something. (And I think Albuquerque does far better than most cities, like Colo Springs or Denver, where fifth columnists often outnumber the simple citizen.)